Evidence that nanoscale surface properties stimulate and guide various molecular and biological processes at the implant/tissue interface is fostering a new trend in designing implantable metals. Cutting-edge expertise and techniques drawn from widely separated fields, such as nanotechnology, materials engineering and biology, have been advantageously exploited to nanoengineer surfaces in ways that control and direct these processes in predictable manners. In this review, we present and discuss the state-of-the-art of nanotechnology-based approaches currently adopted to modify the surface of metals used for orthopedic and dental applications, and also briefly consider their use in the cardiovascular field. The effects of nanoengineered surfaces on various in vitro molecular and cellular events are firstly discussed. This review also provides an overview of in vivo and clinical studies with nanostructured metallic implants, and addresses the potential influence of nanotopography on biomechanical events at interfaces. Ultimately, the objective of this work is to give the readership a comprehensive picture of the current advances, future developments and challenges in the application of the infinitesimally small to biomedical surface science. We believe that an integrated understanding of the in vitro and particularly of the in vivo behavior is mandatory for the proper exploitation of nanostructured implantable metals and, indeed, of all biomaterials.
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